Pat and Joe Abrams formed the Sarasota K-9 Search and Rescue Team in 1994 with the mission to recover missing persons and educate the public on child abduction — a topic that hits close to home for the couple.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Abramses’ worst nightmare came true when their youngest daughter was involved in an incident with a predator, which she fortunately survived. The experience spawned a passion for spreading awareness and prevention education.
“She could’ve become another statistic,” says Pat Abrams, team leader. “I made a promise to God that if she was safe, I would spend the rest of my life making sure this doesn’t happen to other children.”
Pat Abrams, an EMT, and Joe Abrams, a firefighter, used their knowledge and training to form the all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit team, which now consists of 30 members and 17 dogs.
The team collaborates with the Sarasota County 911 system to deploy on search-and-rescue missions all over Florida and other nearby states, as needed.
Throughout its 17 years as an incorporated team, its members have have worked on high-profile cases, including the Denise Amber Lee and Carlie Brucia murder cases, as well as recovering the flight recorder from the space shuttle Columbia disaster, in Texas.
“Every case is important to us,” says Pat Abrams. “Every case has a family attached to it. This isn’t just a club or a hobby for us; it’s serious business.”
The group’s four dog trainers teach the animals the skills they’ll need for the job, including area searching, human-remains recovery, disaster searching and tracking. The canines, which belong to team members, include border collies, German shepherds and bloodhounds.
“When we’re not working, these dogs are our pets,” says Joe Abrams. “Ten minutes before deployment, that dog is on the couch watching T.V. But, as soon as I start getting dressed and get that vest out, they know it’s time to work.”
The team also visits schools to teach students about predator safety, and Pat Abrams writes children’s books as a learning tool.
“Prevention is our mission, too,” she says. “We don’t live in a perfect world, and it’s up to us to teach kids how to be responsible and safe.”
If You Go
Meet and Greet — takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at the Animal Services Center, 8451 Bee Ridge Road. Call 377-7915.